ATLANTIC CITY - The La Salle University men's team could not salvage a horrendous day for Philadelphia college basketball Friday.
Saint Louis beat La Salle 78-71 in an Atlantic 10 Conference tournament quarterfinal at Boardwalk Hall.
The second-seeded Billikens (25-6) will meet third-seeded Xavier, which beat sixth-seeded Dayton in Friday's final game, in the semifinals at 3 p.m. today.
Before LaSalle took the court, the A-10's other two Philadelphia teams, Temple and Saint Joseph's, had lost their games.
The La Salle players knew they were the last Philadelphia team standing.
"We tried to use that to motivate us so we could keep our Philly pride and have La Salle pride," Explorers guard Ramon Galloway said.
But it was not be.
Instead, Saint Louis advanced to the A-10 semifinals for just the second time and the first since 2007.
The Saint Louis players realized they had eliminated the last Philadelphia team.
"Philly has great basketball," Billikens forward Brian Conklin said. "It was a surprise to see Temple and Saint Joe's go out."
The matchup, played before an announced second-session crowd of 5,955, between Saint Louis and La Salle was a contrast in personnel. The Billikens played a conventional lineup; La Salle played four guards for most of the game.
Saint Louis used its size advantage to outscore La Salle 30-18 in the lane. The Billikens also had a 12-4 edge in second-chance points.
"We're bigger and we should have done that," Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus said. "Sometimes we were trying so hard to exploit the mismatch that we turned it over and got stagnant with our ball handling."
The Billikens jumped to a 14-2 lead as Kwamain Mitchell (15 points), Rob Loe (seven points) and Dwayne Evans (nine points) each sank 3-pointers in the first six minutes for Saint Louis. Seventh-seeded La Salle couldn't come all the way back. The Explorer's only lead was 2-0.
"We got off to that bad start and after that we outplayed them for good portions," La Salle coach John Giannini said. "They were just more solid. We made more mistakes and getting in the hole early really hurt us."
La Salle cut the lead to two points twice in the second half. On both occasions, Saint Louis executed its half-court offense and got the ball inside to the 6-foot-6 Conklin (14 points) for easy baskets that pushed the lead back to four.
"Every time coach called a time out when La Salle made a run, we would just get together and say ,'They just made their run. Now it's our turn.' " Conklin said. "When teams make a run at us, we don't get frustrated. We just made a run back at them."
La Salle (20-11) will now await its postseason fate. Majerus said he thought the Explorers deserved a bid to the National Invitational Tournament.
Giannini, to no one's surprise, seconded the thought.
"It would be a big deal," he said of an NIT bid. "When that bracket is announced, you see some of the best programs in the country in there. You're going to see household names in that tournament, and we'd love to be among those household names."
Meanwhile, the other major postgame topic of discussion was the absence of Philadelphia teams from today's semifinals. Massachusetts, the No. 8 seed, upset No. 1 Temple 77-71, and No. 5 Saint Joseph's lost to No. 4 St. Bonaventure 71-68.
This is the A-10 tournament's final year here. The event moves to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in 2013. What would the absence of regional teams do to attendance today and for Sunday's final? League commissioner Bernadette McGlade didn't seem worried.
"The fact that those (Philadelphia) teams got beat is a sign of the strength of our conference," she said after the La Salle loss. "When you're at tournament time, everybody has to play to win. Otherwise, you're going to be headed home."
Or to Brooklyn.
Contact Michael McGarry:
LA SALLE (21-12) Totals 25-56 13-15 71.
SAINT LOUIS (25-6)
Totals 25-56 19-22 78Halftime3-Point Goals-Fouled Out-Rebounds-Assists-Total Fouls-A-